Russophobia – Symptom of US Implosion

by Finian Cunningham

Zero Hedge (March 24 2017)

There was a time when Russophobia served as an effective form of population control – used by the American ruling class in particular to command the general US population into patriotic loyalty. Not any longer. Now, Russophobia is a sign of weakness, of desperate implosion among the US ruling class from their own rotten, internal decay.

This propaganda technique worked adequately well during the Cold War decades when the former Soviet Union could be easily demonized as “godless communism” and an “evil empire”. Such stereotypes, no matter how false, could be sustained largely because of the monopoly control of Western media by governments and official regulators.

The Soviet Union passed away more than a quarter of a century ago, but Russophobia among the US political class is more virulent than ever.

This week it was evident from Congressional hearings {1} in Washington into alleged Russian interference in US politics that large sections of American government and establishment media are fixated by Russophobia and a belief that Russia is a malign foreign adversary.

However, the power of the Russophobia propaganda technique over the wider population seems to have greatly diminished from its Cold War heyday. This is partly due to more diverse global communications which challenge the previous Western monopoly for controlling narrative and perception. Contemporary Russophobia – demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin or Russian military forces – does not have the same potency for scaring the Western public. Indeed, due to greater diversity in global news media sources, it is fair to say that “official” Western depictions of Russia as an enemy, for example allegedly about to invade Europe or allegedly interfering in electoral politics, are met with a healthy skepticism – if not ridicule by many Western citizens.

What is increasingly apparent here is a gaping chasm between the political class and the wider public on the matter of Russophobia. This is true for Western countries generally, but especially in the US. The political class – the lawmakers in Washington and the mainstream news media – are frenzied by claims that Russia interfered in the US presidential elections and that Russia has some kind of sinister leverage on the presidency of Donald Trump.

But this frenzy of Russophobia is not reflected among the wider public of ordinary American citizens. Rabid accusations that Russia hacked the computers of Trump’s Democrat rival Hillary Clinton to spread damaging information about her; that this alleged sabotage of American democracy was an “act of war”; that President Trump is guilty of “treason” by “colluding” with a “Russian influence campaign” – all of these sensational claims seem to be only a preoccupation of the privileged political class. Most ordinary Americans, concerned about making a living in a crumbling society, either don’t buy the claims or view them as idle chatter.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov this week dismissed the Congressional hearings into alleged Russian interference in US politics. He aptly said that US lawmakers and the corporate media have become “entangled” in their own fabrications. “They are trying to find evidence for conclusions that they have already made”, said Peskov.

Other suitable imagery is that the US political class are tilting at windmills, chasing their own tails, or running from their own shadows. There seems to be a collective delusional mindset.

Unable to accept the reality that the governing structure of the US has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the people, that the people rebelled by electing an outsider in the form of business mogul-turned-politician Donald Trump, that the collapse of American traditional politics is due to the atrophy of its bankrupt capitalist economy over several decades – the ruling class have fabricated their own excuse for demise by blaming it all on Russia.

The American ruling class cannot accept, or come to terms, with the fact of systemic failure in their own political system. The election of Trump is a symptom of this failure and the widespread disillusionment among voters towards the two-party train wreck of Republicans and Democrats. That is why the specter of Russian interference in the US political system had to be conjured up, by necessity, as a way of “explaining” the abject failure and the ensuing popular revolt.

Russophobia was rehabilitated from the Cold War closet by the American political establishment to distract from the glaring internal collapse of American politics.

The corrosive, self-destruction seems to know no bounds. James Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told {2} Congress this week that the White House is being probed for illicit contacts with Russia. This dramatic notice served by Comey was greeted with general approval by political opponents of the Trump administration, as well as by news media outlets.

The New York Times said the FBI was in effect holding a “criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House”.

Other news outlets are openly airing {3} discussions on the probability of President Trump being impeached from office.

The toxic political atmosphere of Russophobia in Washington is unprecedented. The Trump administration is being crippled at every turn from conducting normal political business under a toxic cloud of suspicion that it is guilty of treason from colluding with Russia.

President Trump has run afoul with Republicans in Congress over his planned healthcare reforms because many Republicans are taking issue instead over the vaunted Russian probe.

When Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was reported {4} to be skipping a Nato summit next month but was planning to visit Moscow later in the same month, the itinerary was interpreted as a sign of untoward Russian influence.

What makes the spectacle of political infighting so unprecedented is that there is such little evidence to back up allegations of Trump-Russia collusion. It is preponderantly based on innuendo and anonymous leaks to the media, which are then recycled as “evidence”.

Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said earlier this week that he has seen no actual evidence among classified documents indicating any collusion between the Trump campaign team and the Russian government.

Even former senior intelligence officials, James Clapper and Michael Morell who are no friends of Trump, have lately admitted in media interviews that there is no such evidence.

Yet, FBI chief James Comey told Congress that his agency was pursuing a potentially criminal investigation into the Trump administration, while at the same time not confirming or denying the existence of any evidence.

And, as already noted, this declaration of open-ended snooping by Comey on the White House was met with avid approval by political opponents of Trump, both on Capitol Hill and in the corporate media.

Let’s just assume for a moment that the whole Trump-Russia collusion story is indeed fake. That it is groundless, a figment of imagination. There are solid reasons to believe that is the case. But let’s just assume here that it is fake for the sake of argument.

That then means that the Washington seat of government and the US presidency are tearing themselves apart in a futile civil war.

The real war here is a power struggle within the US in the context of ruling parties no longer having legitimacy to govern.

This is an American implosion. An historic Made-in-America meltdown. And Russophobia is but a symptom of the internal decay at the heart of US politics.

Links:

{1} http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/20/politics/comey-hearing-russia-wiretapping/index.html

{2} https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/20/fbi-director-james-comey-confirms-probe-possible-trump-campaign-collusion-with-russia-influence-election/OBoIqmTsf9eI7lFECwQjSJ/story.html

{3} https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/donald-trump-president-impeached-liberals-history-process?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=218505&subid=5356906&CMP=GT_US_collection

{4} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-tillerson-idUSKBN16S04I

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/03/24/russophobia-symptom-us-implosion.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-24/russophobia-symptom-us-implosion

Categories: Uncategorized

Could Great Wall of Iron …

… become New Silk Roadblock?

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (March 21 2017)

When the hype surrounding the Trump-Xi summit turns into a Mar-a-Lago fact on the ground next month, both presidents are bound to agree fully on at least one issue: “radical Islamic terror” – as per Trump terminology.

Donald Trump has relied on a controversial Muslim “no-ban” ban that – in theory – would restrict the inflow of potential radical Islamists to US territory; his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, meeting Xinjiang lawmakers on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, has launched a “Great Wall of Iron” to protect China’s Far West.

The matter primarily concerns the East Turkestan Independence Movement (“ETIM”), active in Xinjiang, which Cheng Guoping, State Commissioner for counterterrorism and security matters, describes as “the most prominent challenge to China’s social stability, economic development and national security”.

ETIM is an Islamic extremist separatist organization, which according to Cheng is seeking “Xinjiang independence”.

It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, the UAE, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, among others. It is open to question whether the movement is really a cohesive separatist outfit, but certainly Chinese intelligence views it as such.

The matter also concerns, predictably, ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

Daesh has recently released a video in Uyghur, the Turkic language written in Arabic characters and spoken by Xinjiang’s Muslims, showing jihadis practicing somewhere in Iraq before slitting the throat of an alleged informer.

But the crux of the video is a thirty-second segment containing Daesh’s first direct threat to Beijing. Moments before the execution, a fighter – in the translation by the US-based SITE Intelligence Group – exclaims:

 

 

Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say! We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed.

 

 

Chinese intelligence keeps extensive tabs on Uyghurs who have metastasized into jihadis across “Syraq” after making the journey illegally via Southeast Asia and Turkey. Beijing is as much alarmed at their eventual return home as Moscow is about Chechens and other Southern Caucasus jihadis.

And then there’s a third quite startling element. The Daesh video signals the formal excommunication of the Turkestan Islamic Party (“TIP”), which is essentially al-Qaeda in Xinjiang.

The TIP’s leadership and core fighters are based in Pakistan’s tribal areas, protected by the Tehreek-e Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) and have launched a number of attacks across the border over the past several years. Their announced aim is to install a Caliphate across Central Asia, but paying obedience to al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri, not Daesh’s self-proclaimed Caliph al-Baghdadi.

A key question is whether ETIM and TIP are one and the same. Uyghur jihadis are notoriously secretive and shifty. I met some of them in the “Lion of the Panjshir” Commander Masoud’s prisons in northern Afghanistan only three weeks before 9/11 – and they would not even admit ETIM existed. They also denied any links with al-Qaeda, following the example of then-ETIM leader Hasan Mehsum. They insisted their principal aim was independence from China.

Beijing essentially regards TIP as ETIM rebranded; high officials like Cheng Guoping continue to refer to all Uyghur jihadis as ETIM. A fluid movement, congregating multiple outlooks derived from separatism, it’s safer to say that “ETIM” referred to the few hundred Uyghur fighters active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan until TIP was formally announced in 2006.

There are other complicated overtones. ETIM was previously connected to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (“IMU”), co-founded by notorious jihadi Juma Namangani, an ex-Soviet paratrooper, who died in Afghanistan in 2001. IMU for its part was connected with the Afghan Taliban. Then, in the mid-2000s, there was a split; and the connection/protection of ETIM switched to the Pakistani Taliban.

The Daesh video chooses to refer to TIP, not ETIM. Although not as sophisticated as Daesh, TIP also harbors its own Sawt al-Islam (Voice of Islam) multilingual media operation, complete with an Islamic Turkestan magazine.

Beyond the terminology morass, Chinese intelligence ultimately may have to build a Great Wall of Iron aiming at two separate fronts: against Daesh and Uyghur jihadis fighting alongside Daesh in Syria and Iraq, who may be returning to Xinjiang or Pakistan, and against al-Qaeda ramifications/interpolations calling themselves TIP. Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College of Australian National University, says that the hints of a Uyghur split could “intensify the threat to China” as it indicates Uyghur terrorists may be able to tap into the capabilities of both Daesh and al-Qaeda.

Daesh has set its sights on seducing packs of reservoir dogs not only from northern Africa but also from Indonesia, Pakistan and northwestern China. There are at least 23 million mainly Sunni Muslims in China – when we add the mostly Xinjiang-based Uyghurs and the Huis, an ethnic minority living in Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia provinces; that’s twice the population of Tunisia, a fertile Daesh recruiting ground. Since 2014 al-Baghdadi has designated China as a jihad target. Daesh beheaded a Chinese hostage in November 2015. Daesh has released videos in mandarin to seduce the Hui.

Between a Separatist Rock and a Jihadi Hard Place

The Daesh video, produced by the group’s al-Furat Province unit in western Iraq, in which Uyghur jihadis promise to come home and “shed blood like rivers”, was released the same day (February 27) that China held the latest in a series of mass rallies of military police in Xinjiang meant to indicate government resolve in crushing security threats.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But there can be little doubt of either Daesh’s determination to spread jihad to far-away places as it rapidly loses ground in Syria and Iraq or of China’s equally strong determination to prevent Uyghur grievances from morphing into full-blown jihadism in its largest western province sitting astride the New Silk Road.

One Belt, One Road (“OBOR”), the official designation of the New Silk Road project, is President Xi’s most important foreign and economic policy undertaking. Xinjiang, a province at the very center of Asia and the size of Germany, France, Italy, and the UK combined, is a critical geographical link bordering on Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It sits on vast energy and mineral reserves, is China’s largest producer of natural gas, and will be the privileged node connecting China to central and west Asia in a maze of high-speed rail, pipelines and fibre optics. The capital, Urumqi, is being turned into an information-technology hub. Trouble in Xinjiang spells major trouble for OBOR. It’s a fair bet that Beijing won’t stand for that.

Since August of 2016, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as it’s officially called, is run by Chen Quanguo, Communist Party Secretary of the Region, Member of the 18th CPC Central Committee, and promising candidate for the 19th Politburo of the CPC to be elected in October this year.

Prior to taking up the Xinjiang position, Chen for five years served as Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet CPC Autonomous Regional Committee. He knows ethnically diverse border regions trouble, has been entrusted by Beijing to deal with it and stood next to Xi Jinping when the Great Wall of Iron policy was announced.

While running Tibet, Chen revived methods of social control pioneered by ancient Chinese dynasties, the baojia system of groups of neighbors watching neighbors, now called the “grid system of social management”, with myriads of small police boxes in Lhasa and smaller towns and networks of citizens set up block by block to watch over each other, enforce proper behavior and identify suspicious strangers and potential troublemakers.

These methods are now being replicated from the capital of Urumqi to Korla to Aksu to Kashgar and Hetian. And if social controls and grid surveillance should prove insufficient, Chen will always have recourse to the People’s Armed Police Force, large units of which were on such prominent display in late February parades.

The stakes are high. There’s a fine line between social controls administered judiciously and with a measure of acceptance and success and controls administered harshly, experienced as repression and giving rise to violent reaction. It remains to be seen whether Chen’s and Xi’s Great Wall of Iron will fend off separatism and jihadism or whether the application of too much iron will strike a serious blow against the most ambitious infrastructure undertaking of the century.

 

_____

 

This piece first appeared in Asia Times: http://www.atimes.com/article/could-great-wall-of-iron-become-new-silk-roadblock/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/21/could-great-wall-of-iron-become-new-silk-roadblock/

Categories: Uncategorized

Will Washington Risk World War Three …

… to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate?

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (March 23 2017)

 

 

Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans … That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as “the Union of Europe” which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the “new Asia”.

– Russian President Vladimir Putin, “Russia and the changing world”, February 2012

 

 

The relentless demonization of Vladimir Putin is just one part of Washington’s multi-pronged strategy to roll-back Russian power in Central Asia and extinguish Putin’s dream of a “Greater Europe”. Along with the attempt to smear the Russian president as a “KGB thug” and “dictator”, the media has also alleged that Moscow intervened in the US presidential elections and that Russia is a serial aggressor that poses a growing threat to European and US national security. The media onslaught, which has greatly intensified since the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, has been accompanied by harsh economic sanctions, asymmetrical attacks on Russia’s markets and currency, the arming and training of Russian adversaries in Ukraine and Syria, the calculated suppression of oil prices, and a heavy-handed effort to sabotage Russia’s business relations in Europe. In short, Washington is doing everything in its power to prevent Russia and Europe from merging into the world’s biggest free trade zone that will be the center of global growth and prosperity for the next century.

This is why the US State Department joined with the CIA to topple the elected government of Ukraine in 2014. Washington hoped that by annexing a vital landbridge between the EU and Asia, US powerbrokers could control critical pipeline corridors that are drawing the two continents closer together into an alliance that will exclude the United States. The prospect of Russia meeting more of the EU’s growing energy needs, while China’s high-speed railway system delivers more low-cost manufactured goods, suggests that the world’s center of economic gravity is shifting fast increasing the probability that the US will continue on its path of irreversible decline. And when the US dollar is inevitably jettisoned as the primary means of exchange between trade partners in the emerging Asia-EU free trade zone, then the recycling of wealth into US debt will drop off precipitously sending US markets plunging while the economy slips into a deep slump. Preventing Putin from “creating a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok” is no minor hurtle for the United States. It’s a matter of life and death.

Remember the Wolfowitz Doctrine:

 

 

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.

 

 

Washington’s relations with Russia will always be fractious because Russia poses a perennial threat to US ambitions to rule the world. Geography is fate, and Russia’s geography contains massive oil and gas reserves that Europe needs to heat its homes and fuel its businesses. The symbiotic relationship between supplier and end-user will eventually lead to the lifting of trade barriers, the lowering of tariffs, and the smooth melding together of national economies into a region-wide common market. This may be Washington’s biggest nightmare, but it’s also Putin’s top strategic priority. Here’s what he said:

 

 

We must consider more extensive cooperation in the energy sphere, up to and including the formation of a common European energy complex. The Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea and the South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea are important steps in that direction. These projects have the support of many governments and involve major European energy companies. Once the pipelines start operating at full capacity, Europe will have a reliable and flexible gas-supply system that does not depend on the political whims of any nation. This will strengthen the continent’s energy security not only in form but in substance. This is particularly relevant in the light of the decision of some European states to reduce or renounce nuclear energy.

 

 

If Europe wants a reliable partner that can meet its energy needs, then Russia fits the bill. Unfortunately, the US has repeatedly tried to sabotage both pipelines in order to undermine EU-Russia relations. Washington would prefer that Europe either dramatically curtail its use of natural gas or find other more expensive alternatives that don’t involve Russia. In other words, Europe’s material needs are being sacrificed for Washington’s geopolitical objectives, the primary goal of which is to prevent the forming of Greater Europe.

Washington’s war against Russia is becoming increasingly militarized. Recently the Pentagon deployed more combat troops to Syria and Kuwait suggesting that US warplanners intend to shift from the current strategy of arming jihadist militias (to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad), to a more direct use of martial force to seize-and-hold territory in East Syria. There are signs of an uptick in the violence in Ukraine too, as President Trump appears only-too-eager to use a more iron-fisted approach in settling regional disputes than his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Also, Nato has deployed troops and weaponry to Russia’s western flank while the US has spread its military bases across Central Asia. Nato has continued to push eastward ever since the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. The steady buildup of hostile armies on Russia’s western perimeter has been a source of growing concern in Moscow and for good reason. Russians know their history.

At the same time the US is building a ground-based missile defense system in Romania (Star Wars) that integrates the US nuclear arsenal at a site that is just 900 miles from Moscow. The US missile system which was “certified for operation” in May 2016, cancels-out Russia’s nuclear deterrents and destroys the strategic balance of power in Europe. Putin has responded by ordering appropriate countermeasures. Here are Putin’s comments on the subject:

 

 

It seems that Nato countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our own. The Americans are obsessed with the idea of “absolute invulnerability” for themselves … But absolute invulnerability for one nation means absolute vulnerability for everybody else. We cannot agree to this.

 

 

In the last week, the Trump administration announced that it will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (“THAAD”) system to South Korea citing a need to respond to provocations by North Korea. In truth, Washington is using the North as a pretext for its plan to hem in Russia and China at “axial ends” of the Eurasian heartland as a means of containing the vast landmass that Sir Halford Mackinder called the “pivot area … stretching from the Persian Gulf to China’s Yangtze River”.

Washington hopes that by controlling critical sea lanes, encircling the region with military bases, and aggressively inserting itself where necessary, it can prevent the emergence of an economic colossus that will diminish the United States role as global superpower. America’s future rests on its ability to derail economic integration at the center of the world and prevail in the Great Game where others have failed. Here’s an excerpt from an article by Alfred W McCoy titled “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline” which helps to shed light on the struggle that is now taking place for control over the so called “world island”:

 

 

Following World War Two the US became the first power in history to control the strategic axial points at both ends of Eurasia … With fears of Chinese and Russian expansion serving as the catalyst for collaboration, the US won imperial bastions in both Western Europe and Japan. With these axial points as anchors, Washington then built an arc of military bases that followed Britain’s maritime template and were visibly meant to encircle the world island …

Having seized the axial ends of the world island from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945, for the next seventy years the United States relied on ever-thickening layers of military power to contain China and Russia inside that Eurasian heartland. Stripped of its ideological foliage, Washington’s grand strategy of Cold War-era anticommunist “containment” was little more than a process of imperial succession …

By the Cold War’s end in 1990, the encirclement of communist China and Russia required 700 overseas bases, an air force of 1,763 jet fighters, a vast nuclear arsenal, more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, and a navy of 600 ships, including fifteen nuclear carrier battle groups – all linked by the world’s only global system of communications satellites … {1}

 

 

For the last seventy years the imperial strategy has worked without a hitch, but now Russia’s resurgence and China’s explosive growth are threatening to break free from Washington’s stranglehold. The Asian allies have begun to crisscross Central Asia and Europe with pipelines and high-speed rail that will gather together the far-flung statelets scattered across the steppe, draw them into a Eurasian Economic Union, and link them to an expansive and thriving superstate, the epicenter of global commerce and industry. Grand Chessboard brain-trust Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up the importance of Central Asia in his 1997 classic stating:

 

 

Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions … About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for sixty per cent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources. {2}

 

 

A new global empire is gradually emerging in Central Asia, and while the transformative impact of economic integration has not yet been realized, US efforts to block the embryonic alliance are getting weaker and more desperate all the time. The hyperbolic propaganda about the alleged “Russia hacking” of the presidential election is just one example of this, while the arming of Nazi militants in Kiev is another.

The bottom line is that both Russia and China are using markets, development and raw ingenuity to beat Washington, while Washington relies almost exclusively on deception, covert activity and hard power. In other words, the former communists are beating the capitalists at their own game. Here’s more from McCoy:

 

 

China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power. It is using a subtle strategy that has so far eluded Washington’s power elites …

The initial step has involved a breathtaking project to put in place an infrastructure for the continent’s economic integration. By laying down an elaborate and enormously expensive network of high-speed, high-volume railroads as well as oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of Eurasia, China may realize Mackinder’s vision in a new way. For the first time in history, the rapid transcontinental movement of critical cargo – oil, minerals, and manufactured goods – will be possible on a massive scale, thereby potentially unifying that vast landmass into a single economic zone stretching 6,500 miles from Shanghai to Madrid. In this way, the leadership in Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power away from the maritime periphery and deep into the continent’s heartland … {1}

 

 

Washington is not going to let the Russo-China plan go forward without a fight. If economic sanctions, covert activity and financial sabotage don’t work, then US powerbrokers will implement more lethal strategies. The recent deployment of troops to the Middle East suggests that policymakers believe that a direct military confrontation might be the best available option, after all, a shooting war with Russia in Syria or Ukraine would not necessarily escalate into a full-blown nuclear conflagration. No one wants that. But if the fighting can be contained within Syria’s borders, then it would be a practical way to rally the EU allies, torpedo Russia’s “economic integration” plan, and draw Moscow into a long, resource-draining quagmire. Is that what US war-planners have in mind?

It’s a risky plan, but one that Washington would eagerly pursue if it helped to reinforce America’s global supremacy.

Links:

{1} http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176007/

{2} Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (1997), page 31

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/23/will-washington-risk-ww3-to-block-an-emerging-eu-russia-superstate/

Categories: Uncategorized

“They’re Like the Praetorian Guard”

Whistleblower Confirms NSA Targeted Congress, the Supreme Court, & Trump

by Chris Menahan

InformationLiberation.com (March 25 2017)

Zero Hedge (March 25 2017)

NSA whistleblower William Binney told Tucker Carlson on Friday that the NSA is spying on “all the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, both House and Senate, as well as the White House”.

Binney, who served the NSA for thirty years before blowing the whistle on domestic spying in 2001, told Tucker he firmly believes that Trump was spied on.

“They’re taking in fundamentally the entire fiber network inside the United States and collecting all that data and storing it, in a program they call Stellar Wind”, Binney said.

“That’s the domestic collection of data on US citizens, US citizens to other US citizens”, he said. “Everything we’re doing, phone calls, emails and then financial transactions, credit cards, things like that, all of it”.

“Inside NSA there are a set of people who are – and we got this from another NSA whistleblower who witnessed some of this – they’re inside there, they are targeting and looking at all the members of the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Congress, both House and Senate, as well as the White House”, Binney said.

“And all this data is inside the NSA in a small group where they’re looking at it. The idea is to see what people in power over you are going to – what they think, what they think you should be doing or planning to do to you, your budget, or whatever so you can try to counteract before it actually happens”, he said.

“I mean, that’s just East German”, Tucker responded.

Rather than help prevent terrorist attacks, Binney said collecting so much information actually makes stopping attacks more difficult.

“This bulk acquisition is inhibiting their ability to detect terrorist threats in advance so they can’t stop them so people get killed as a result”, he said.

 

 

Which means, you know, they pick up the pieces and blood after the attack. That’s what’s been going on. I mean they’ve consistently failed. When Alexander said they’d stop 54 attacks and he was challenged to produce the evidence to prove that he failed on every count.

 

 

Binney concludes ominously indicating the origin of the deep state …

 

 

They are like the praetorian guard, they determine what the emperor does and who the emperor is …

 

 

Who’s going to stop them?

http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=56482

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-25/theyre-praetorian-guard-whistleblower-confirms-nsa-targeted-congress-supreme-court-j

Categories: Uncategorized

The FBI Has Secretly Gathered Millions of “Faceprints” …

… for Biometric Database for Years

by Derrick Broze

Activist Post (March 24 2017)

A representative of the FBI was grilled by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding the agency’s growing biometric database.

On Wednesday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform questioned Kimberly Del Greco, Deputy Assistant Director at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, about why the bureau broke the law by failing to file a privacy impact statement acknowledging the collection of millions of Americans’ faces for the agency’s new biometric identification system. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (“NGI”) system is made up of fingerprints, iris scans, faceprints, and other facial recognition data. The NGI organizes Americans’ biometric data into a single file that includes personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, et cetera.

The Committee reports that nearly half of all adult Americans’ photographs are in the database. The 2013 US Census Bureau estimated that there are over 242 million adults living in the US. If the Committee’s numbers are correct, over 121 million adults are in the FBI’s database. Other revelations include that eighteen states have a memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with the FBI to share photos with the federal government, including from state departments of motor vehicles (!DMV”). According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center:

With NGI, the FBI will expand the number of uploaded photographs and provide investigators with “automated facial recognition search capability”. The FBI intends to do this by eliminating restrictions on the number of submitted photographs (including photographs that are not accompanied by tenprint fingerprints) and allowing the submission of non-facial photographs (for example scars or tattoos).

The FBI also widely disseminates this NGI data. According to the FBI’s latest NGI fact sheet, 24,510 local, state, tribal, federal and international partners submitted queries to NGI in September 2016.

Committee Chairman Congressman Jason Chaffetz (Republican, Utah) scolded Ms Del Greco for the FBI’s failures. “The failure here is years after you were supposed to make it public”, Chaffetz stated. “You were using it in real world circumstances, you were actually using it and didn’t issue the statement”. Chaffetz also asked Del Greco whether the FBI had plans to gather faceprints via social media. “Are you collecting that information that is available on social media?”, the chairman demanded. “We do not have any other photos in our repository”.

Alvaro Bedoya, Executive Director, Center on Privacy and Technology Georgetown Law, questioned the FBI’s claim, stating that the bureau has access to driver’s license photos. “We have access to that data but we do not use it”, Del Greco answered. Jennifer Lynch, Senior Staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) also stated that the FBI has access to “civil photos” in the NGI database.

Representative Paul Mitchell (Republican, Michigan) also questioned Del Greco regarding the FBI’s activities. “I think the issue goes beyond the First Amendment concerns that were expressed … and is broader”, Mitchell stated during the panel. “I don’t want to just protect someone if they’re in a political protest from being identified, the reality is we should protect everybody unless there is a valid documented criminal justice action. Why should my photo … be subject because I get a driver’s license, to access?” Representative John Duncan (Republican-Tennessee) expressed similar fear regarding the possibility that the expectation of privacy is quickly fading. Duncan worried that Americans looking at the information, “would wonder if were ending up in a federal police state that’s gotten totally out of control, and has far too much power”.

Duncan is not far off. The databases include photos of people who aren’t suspected of any criminal activity that come from driver’s license and passport and visa photos. Other issues with the FBI database include misidentifying females and blacks at a higher rate. The FBI is currently facing a lawsuit from The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) regarding the database. EPIC is asking a judge to force the FBI to release records about its plan to share the biometric data with the US Department of Defense. EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2015, but the FBI has so far refused to release the 35 pages of responsive records.

EPIC and privacy advocates are concerned about the potential for cases of mistaken identity and abuse of the collected data. EPIC also argues “the FBI stated that increased collection and retention of personally identifiable information presents a correspondingly increased risk that the FBI will then be maintaining more information that might potentially be subject to loss or unauthorized use”.

In 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation received documents from the FBI related to the NGI system. At the time the FBI estimated the facial recognition component of NGI would include as many as 52 million face images by 2015. The Committee’s hearing on Wednesday indicated that number was more than double as of 2017. The danger of abuse from facial recognition programs is on the rise. Activist Post recently highlighted a new report from Georgetown Law University’s Center for Privacy and Technology that details how law enforcement is using facial recognition software without the knowledge or consent of the people. The report, “The Perpetual Line-Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America”, examines several cases of misuse or abuse of facial recognition technology.

How can we protect our privacy in a world that is quickly becoming a digitally interconnected panopticon of audio recording devices, faceprint collection machines, and cameras from every direction? The answer is not simple. Most of us live our lives with these devices and use them for several hours each day. When we are staring into our phones to send text messages, the camera is potentially stealing our faceprint and sending it to your cell phone provider and/or law enforcement. We are giving away our privacy for convenience, luxury, and entertainment. How can we stop the fast march to a total surveillance state? Perhaps abandoning all technology and living off the land. Short of that, we need to take measures to encrypt our communication and practice a culture of security.

_____

 

Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality (2016), Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Volume 1 (2016) and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Volume 2 (2016).

Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com

This article may be freely reposted in part or in full with author attribution and source link.

Image Credit: TheFreeThoughtProject.com

http://www.activistpost.com/2017/03/fbi-gathered-facial-recognition-data-years-secrecy.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The Multibillion-Dollar US Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard of

by James Bamford

foreignpolicy.com (March 20 2017)

On a heavily protected military base some fifteen miles south of Washington, DC, sits the massive headquarters of a spy agency few know exists. Even Barack Obama, five months into his presidency, seemed not to have recognized its name. While shaking hands at a Five Guys hamburger restaurant in Washington in May 2009, he asked a customer seated at a table about his job. “What do you [do]?” the president inquired. “I work at NGA, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency”, the man answered. Obama appeared dumbfounded. “So, explain to me exactly what this National Geospatial …” he said, unable to finish the name. Eight years after that videotape aired, the NGA remains by far the most shadowy member of the Big Five spy agencies, which include the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Despite its lack of name recognition, the NGA’s headquarters is the third-largest building in the Washington metropolitan area, bigger than the CIA headquarters and the US Capitol.

Completed in 2011 at a cost of $1.4 billion, the main building measures four football fields long and covers as much ground as two aircraft carriers. In 2016, the agency purchased 99 acres in Saint Louis to construct additional buildings at a cost of $1.75 billion to accommodate the growing workforce, with 3,000 employees already in the city.

The NGA is to pictures what the NSA is to voices. Its principal function is to analyze the billions of images and miles of video captured by drones in the Middle East and spy satellites circling the globe. But because it has largely kept its ultra-high-resolution cameras pointed away from the United States, according to a variety of studies, the agency has never been involved in domestic spy scandals like its two far more famous siblings, the CIA and the NSA. However, there’s reason to believe that this will change under President Donald Trump.

Throughout the long election campaign and into his first months as president, Trump has pushed hard for weakening restraints on the intelligence agencies, spending more money for defense, and getting tough on law and order. Given the new president’s overwhelming focus on domestic security, it’s reasonable to expect that Trump will use every tool available to maintain it, including overhead vigilance.

In March 2016, the Pentagon released the results of an investigation initiated by the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General to examine military spy drones in the United States. The report, marked “For Official Use Only” and partially redacted, revealed that the Pentagon used unarmed surveillance drones over American soil on fewer than twenty occasions between 2006 and 2015. (Although the report doesn’t identify the nature of the missions, another Pentagon document lists eleven domestic drone operations that principally involved natural disasters, search and rescue, and National Guard training.)

The investigation also quoted from an Air Force law review article pointing out the growing concern that technology designed to spy on enemies abroad may soon be turned around to spy on citizens at home. “As the nation winds down these wars … assets become available to support other combatant command (“COCOM”) or US agencies, the appetite to use them in the domestic environment to collect airborne imagery continues to grow”.

Although the report stated that all missions were conducted within full compliance of the law, it pointedly noted that as of 2015 there were no standardized federal statutes that “specifically address the employment of the capability provided by a DoD UAS (unmanned aircraft system) if requested by domestic civil authorities”. Instead, there is a Pentagon policy governing reconnaissance drones that requires the Secretary of Defense to approve all such domestic operations. Under these regulations, drones “may not conduct surveillance on US persons” unless permitted by law and approved by the secretary. The policy also bans armed drones over the United States for anything other than military training and weapons testing.

In 2016, unbeknownst to many city officials, police in Baltimore began conducting persistent aerial surveillance using a system developed for military use in Iraq. Among them is ARGUS-IS, the world’s highest-resolution camera with 1.8 billion pixels. Invisible from the ground at nearly four miles in the air, it uses a technology known as “persistent stare” – the equivalent of 100 Predator drones peering down at a medium-size city at once – to track everything that moves.

With the capability to watch an area of ten or even fifteen square miles at a time, it would take just two drones hovering over Manhattan to continuously observe and follow all outdoor human activity, night and day. It can zoom in on an object as small as a stick of butter on a plate and store up to one million terabytes of data a day. That capacity would allow analysts to look back in time over days, weeks, or months. Technology is in the works to enable drones to remain aloft for years at a time.

The Department of Homeland Security has been at these crossroads before. In 2007, during the presidency of George W Bush, the department established an agency to direct domestic spy satellite stakeouts and gave it a bland name: the National Applications Office. But Congress, concerned about a “Big Brother in the Sky”, cut off funding. In 2009, it was killed by the Obama administration.

Still, unlike domestic electronic surveillance by the NSA, which has been closely scrutinized and subjected to legislation designed to protect civil liberties, domestic overhead spying has escaped the attention of both Congress and the public. The Trump administration may take advantage of that void.

Initiating a new age of “persistent surveillance”, Trump could use the spy world’s overhead assets to target Muslims or members of Black Lives Matter. The president has spoken in favor of increasing the scrutiny of mosques; aerial assessment would allow him to track worshippers. Drones could aid in the mass roundup of illegal immigrants intended for deportation, and Trump has said he may send federal forces to Chicago to quell the violence. Drones could offer the city the unblinking eye for 24/7 vigilance.

Of course, all that would require a significant expansion of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to analyze the domestic imagery. Before that can happen, Trump, like Obama, has to discover there is such an agency.

A version of this article originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of FP magazine.

The Multibillion-Dollar U.S. Spy Agency You Haven’t Heard of

Categories: Uncategorized

The Whole Point …

… of the Internet of Things is so Big Brother can Spy on You

by George Washington

Washington’s Blog (March 15 2017)

Zero Hedge (March 16 2017)

No one wants the Internet of Things (“IoT”).

The Washington Post noted in 2014:

 

 

No one really wants a “smart” washing machine …

If you’re wondering who would want to buy an Internet-enabled washing machine, you’re not alone. Even Whirlpool’s not so sure.

“We’re a little bit of a hammer looking for a nail right now”, Chris Quatrochi, Whirlpool’s global director of user experience and connectivity, said last week at a conference hosted by tech blog Gigaom. The buyers of web-connected washers, more than a year after launch, are still “not at all widespread”, he said. “Trying to understand exactly the value proposition that you provide to the consumer”, he said, “has been a little bit of a challenge”.

It’s a big concession from one of the most notable champions of the buzzy “Internet of Things” …

As Digital Trends blogger John Sciacca put it: “Have we gotten so pathetically lame that you need to be notified by an email that your laundry is done?” {1}

 

 

Wired jokes:

 

 

Now it seems every kind of thing from dishwashers to doorknobs require an Internet connection, since after all, we all know our dishwashers have long harbored a pent up desire for scintillating conversation with our doorknobs. {2}

 

 

(Side note: Several scientists say that the Same Frequencies Used for Pain-Inflicting Crowd Control Weapons May Be the Basis of the IoT Network {3}.)

Except Big Brother

The government already is spying on us through our computers, phones, cars, buses, streetlights, at airports and on the street, via mobile scanners and drones, through our credit cards and smart meters {4}, {5}, television {6}, doll {7}, and in many other ways.

The CIA wants to spy on you through your dishwasher {8} and other “smart” appliances. Slate reported {9} in 2012:

 

 

Watch out: the CIA may soon be spying on you – through your beloved, intelligent household appliances, according to Wired {8}.

In early March, at a meeting for the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, CIA Director David Petraeus reportedly noted that “smart appliances” connected to the Internet could someday be used by the CIA to track individuals. If your grocery-list-generating refrigerator knows when you’re home, the CIA could, too, by using geo-location data from your wired appliances, according to SmartPlanet {10}.

“The current ‘Internet of PCs’ will move, of course, toward an ‘Internet of Things’ – of devices of all types – 50 to 100 billion of which will be connected to the Internet by 2020”, Petraeus said in his speech {11}. He continued:

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low cost, and high-power computing – the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing”.

 

 

Last year, US Intelligence Boss James Clapper said that the government will spy on Americans through IoT:

 

 

In the future, intelligence services might use the [“IoT”] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials{12}.

 

 

Yves Smith commented at the time:

 

 

Oh, come on. The whole point of the IoT is spying. The officialdom is just trying to persuade you that it really is a big consumer benefit to be able to tell your oven to start heating up before you get home.{13}

 

 

Wired comments:

 

 

Why do you think there are so many buckets of cash pouring into the IoT hope-to-be-a-market? The Big Corporations don’t expect to make a big profit on the devices themselves, oh no. News flash: the Big Money in IoT is in Big Data. As in, Big Data about everything those sensors are learning about you and your nasty habits that you hide from your neighbors.

The value of Big Data, after all, isn’t the data themselves. “Fred’s car told Fred’s thermostat to turn on Fred’s hot tub” doesn’t interest anybody but Fred and perhaps his hot date (if he’s lucky). The value in Big Data, you see, are in the patterns. What shows you watch. What apps you use. Which ads influence your buying behavior. The more IoT you have, the more Big Data they collect, and the more Big Data they collect, the more they know about how you behave. And once they know how you behave, they know how to control how you behave.{2}

 

 

The Guardian notes:

 

 

As a category, the internet of things is useful to eavesdroppers both official and unofficial for a variety of reasons, the main one being the leakiness of the data.

There are a wide variety of devices that can be used to listen in, and some compound devices (like cars) that have enough hardware to form a very effective surveillance suite all by themselves.

There’s no getting around the fundamental creepiness of the little pinhole cameras in new smart TVs (and Xbox Kinects, and laptops, and cellphones), but the less-remarked-on aspect – the audio – may actually be more pertinent to anyone with a warrant trying to listen in. Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society observed that Samsung’s voice recognition software in its smart TVs had to routinely send various commands “home” to a server where they were processed for relevant information; their microphones are also always on, in case you’re trying to talk to them. Televisions are also much easier to turn on than they used to be: a feature creeping into higher-end TVs called “wake on LAN” allows users to power on televisions over the internet (this is already standard on many desktop PCs).

A cyberattack on toymaker VTech exposed the personal data of 6.4 million children last year; it was a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of kids on the web. But technology waits for no man. Mattel’s Hello Barbie doll works the same way the Nest and Samsung voice operators do, by passing kids’ interactions into the cloud and returning verbal responses through a speaker in the doll. HereO manufactures a watch for kids with a GPS chip in it; Fisher-Price makes a WiFi-enabled stuffed animal. Security researchers at Rapid7 looked at both and found that they were easy to compromise on company databases, and in the case of the watch, use to locate the wearer. {14}

In a separate article, The Guardian pointed out {15}:

 

 

Just a few weeks ago, a security researcher found that Google’s Nest thermostats {16} were leaking users’ zipcodes over the internet. There’s even an entire search engine {17} for the internet of things called Shodan that allows users to easily search for unsecured webcams that are broadcasting from inside people’s houses without their knowledge.

While people voluntarily use all these devices, the chances are close to zero that they fully understand that a lot of their data is being sent back to various companies to be stored on servers that can either be accessed by governments or hackers.

Author and persistent Silicon Valley critic Evgeny Morozov {18} summed up the entire problem with the internet of things and “smart” technology in a tweet last week {19}:

In case you are wondering what “smart” – as in “smart city” or “smart home” – means:

Surveillance
Marketed
As
Revolutionary
Technology

 

 

(And see Amazon Echo and the internet of things that spy on you {20}.)

In the wake of the CIA leaks showing that the agency can remotely turn on our tvs {21} and spy on us using a “fake off” mode so that it looks like the power is off, Tech Dirt wrote in an article called “CIA Leaks Unsurprisingly Show The Internet of Broken Things is a Spy’s Best Friend”:

 

 

The security and privacy standards surrounding the internet of (broken) things sit somewhere between high comedy and dogshit {22}.

 

 

As security expert Bruce Schneier points out, the entire concept of the IoT is wildly insecure and vulnerable to hacking {23}. Indeed, IoT is so insecure that it allowed a massive internet outage {24}.

The highest-level NSA whistleblower in history (William Binney) – the NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, 36-year NSA veteran widely regarded as a “legend” within the agency, who served as the senior technical director within the agency, and managed thousands of NSA employees – reviewed an earlier version of this post, and told Washington’s Blog:

 

 

Yep, that summarizes it fairly well. It does not deal with industry or how they will use the data; but, that will probably be an extension of what they do now. This whole idea of monitoring electronic devices is objectionable.

If forced to buy that stuff, I will do my best to disconnect these monitoring devices and also look for equipment on the market that is not connected in any way.

 

 

Links:

{1} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/10/28/whirlpools-internet-of-things-problem-no-one-really-wants-a-smart-washing-machine/?utm_term=.a4c751cca45a

{2} https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/07/7-reasons-internet-things-doomed/

{3} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/03/internet-things-cause-cancer.html

{4} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/the-government-is-spying-on-us-through-our-computers-phones-cars-buses-streetlights-at-airports-and-on-the-street-via-mobile-scanners-and-drones-through-our-smart-meters-and-in-many-other-ways.html

{5} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/02/smart-meters-allow-government-corporations-hackers-spy.html

{6} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/tyler-durdens-picture-slippery-slope-yes-samsung-smart-tv-can-listen-private-conversations.html

{7} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/big-barbie-watching-meet-wifi-connected-barbie-doll-talks-children-records.html

{8} http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

{9} http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2012/03/19/smart_appliances_could_help_cia_spy_says_petraeus_.html

{10} http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/cia-well-spy-on-you-through-your-refrigerator/10717

{11} https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2012-speeches-testimony/in-q-tel-summit-remarks.html

{12} http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/09/internet-of-things-smart-home-devices-government-surveillance-james-clapper

{13} http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/02/links-21016.html

{14} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/10/internet-of-things-surveillance-smart-tv-cars-toys

{15} http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/09/internet-of-things-smart-devices-spying-surveillance-us-government

{16} https://motherboard.vice.com/read/nest-thermostat-leaked-home-locations-over-the-internet

{17} http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/01/how-to-search-the-internet-of-things-for-photos-of-sleeping-babies/

{18} http://www.theguardian.com/profile/evgeny-morozov

{19} https://twitter.com/evgenymorozov/status/693958196717711362

{20} http://www.popsci.com/amazon-echo-privacy

{21} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/03/cia-documents-reveal-agency-spying-us-smart-tvs.html

{22} https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170307/08085036858/cia-leaks-unsurprisingly-show-internet-broken-things-is-spys-best-friend.shtml

{23} https://www.schneier.com/essay-468.html

{24} http://www.denverpost.com/2016/10/21/internet-of-things-security-holes-partly-to-blame-for-massive-internet-outage/

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/03/whole-point-internet-things-big-brother-can-spy-2.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-16/whole-point-internet-things-so-big-brother-can-spy-you

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